Wednesday, December 2, 2015

What Should You Eat During Pregnancy?

retrieved from

It is important to eat a healthy diet while you are pregnant.  A healthy diet gives you what you need for all of the changes your body is going through.  Healthy food and good nutrition also helps your baby grow and develop. 

First, it is important to know that there is no magic formula for a healthy pregnancy diet.  In reality, the basic principles for a healthy diet remain the same while pregnant.  Get plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.  Drink lots of liquids too.  Liquids help your blood and body fluids to circulate well, helps you digest your food, helps prevent constipation, and helps to prevent urinary tract infections as well.  Be sure you are also supplementing your healthy diet with a prenatal vitamin.  This will help you make sure you are getting everything you and baby need.  Here is a food guide to help you get started 

Dairy Products (4-8 oz cups/day):  These calcium-rich foods are important for building bones and teeth for the baby.  They are a source of small amounts of protein, and can provide healthy gut bacteria for you.  Good sources include milk, cheese, and yogurt.

 Protein Foods (2-3 servings of 6-8 oz/day):  These foods help in the building and repairing of body tissues for the baby and can help maintain a more constant blood sugar level which gives you energy throughout the day.  Good sources include beef, poultry, pork, fish, other meats, cheese, beans, eggs, luncheon meat, nuts, peanut butter, peas, soybeans, and tofu.

Fruits (2-4 servings of 1/2 cup/day):  These foods contain many vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C, which helps in the formation of connective tissue for the baby and boosts your immune system.  Good sources include apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, lemons, oranges, raw cabbage, strawberries, tangerines, and tomatoes.

Vegetables (3-5 servings of 1/2 cup/day):  These foods also contain many vitamins and minerals that you need.  Vitamin A is a major one that is important for healthy eyes and skin for both you and the baby.  Good sources include broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, chard, greens, kale, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and squash.

Grains (6-11 servings/day):  These foods contain B vitamins that are important for the nervous system, give energy, and help with digestion.  Good sources include enriched or whole grain varieties of bread, dry cereals, cooked cereals such as quinoa or oatmeal, crackers, pasta, rice, and tortillas.

Fluids (6-8 cups/day):  Fluids are important for kidney function, circulation of body fluids and blood, and help prevent constipation.  All beverages are acceptable sources of fluids except those with caffeine or alcohol.  Caffeine should be consumed in moderation, and alcohol should be avoided.

Fats (use sparingly):  Fats are needed for energy and vitamin metabolism and do a lot in the body.  They are important, especially those which contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, but should not be eaten in high amounts.  Good sources are butter, olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, nut butters, and fatty fish such as salmon.

retrieved from
While a basic healthy diet is the same pregnant or not, there are a few notable nutrients that deserve special attention. 

Folate and folic acid
Folate is a B vitamin that helps prevent neural tube defects in the baby, serious abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord.  The synthetic form of folate found in supplements and fortified foods is known as folic acid.  Folic acid supplementation has been shown to decrease the risk of preterm delivery.  Good sources include fortified cereals, leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, and dried beans and peas.  Prenatal vitamins contain the correct amount of folic acid needed during pregnancy as well.

Both you and your baby need calcium for strong bones and teeth.  Calcium also helps the circulatory, muscular, and nervous systems to run well.  Dairy products contain the best absorbed calcium.  Nondairy sources include broccoli and kale.  Many juices and breakfast cereals are also fortified with calcium.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D also helps you and your baby develop strong teeth and bones.  Good sources include fatty fish such as salmon and fortified milk and orange juice.

Protein is vital for the growth of your baby, especially during the second and third trimesters.  Good sources are listed above, but I will review a few here as well.  Lean meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are great sources of protein.  Some other options include peanut butter, dried beans and peas, tofu, and dairy products.  

Iron-rich foods should be included somewhere in your diet and are important since your circulating blood increases while pregnant.  Iron helps oxygen get to the tissues in your body which gives you energy and boosts your immune system.  It is also vital for the growth of your baby.  Good sources include liver, lentils, soybeans, sunflower seeds, almonds, clams, oysters, prune juice, liverwurst, dried peas and beans, tuna, salmon, mackerel, shrimp, sardines, veal, beef, pork, walnuts, and enriched grains such as flour and noodles.  Your prenatal vitamins will include iron, however, your healthcare provider may recommend you take a separate iron supplement.

Fiber (at least 1 serving/day):  Foods high in fiber help with digestion and prevent constipation when lots of fluids are also consumed.  Good sources include fresh fruits, raw vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans), and bran.

*Side note:  As encouragement to those who are sick throughout pregnancy and cannot keep as healthy of a diet as they would like.....

It may not look like you are getting what you need, but your body knows what to do.  Do what you can to take in food and make sure you are taking a prenatal vitamin.  Except in extreme cases, you should be getting what you need.  And stressing about it is not good for you or the baby either.  Do what you can to be healthy and then trust in God's control over all things.  He will take care of you and your little one.

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."  Isaiah 41:10 (NIV)